Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New food & new friends in Espana!!

It's night in Santiago, Spain and I've been here for a week. I"m running around with my friend Juan (Juancho) Antonio and his father Juan Antonio Sr. and Juancho's friend from Scotland, Iain. I'm eating my way through Santiago and exploring this town full of old beauty. Passageways between buildings open up like seams you can slide through. The old part of town is made mostly of stone which lets you hear the voices of Spaniards echoing as they talk and walk the streets. It's truly a magical place.

Check out Santiago at night:

People flock to Santiago on pilgrimages to see the great cathedral where it's believed the apostle James was buried. I've come for the friendship and food. Santiago is an off-the-radar foodie hotspot. A guy at the aeropuerto tells me the whole region of Galicia is famous for its rich agricultural treasures.The soil is beautiful and fertile, producing the best red bell peppers I've ever tasted (yummy like candy). Even the iceberg lettuce is better here. The bread is from heaven. Everything is cooked in olive oil, even the pastries have a lovely olive oil aftertaste. Santiago is not too far from the Northern coast of Spain, so seafood is king. The fish market in town is filled with the most unusual creatures from the sea, including octopus, inky squid, razor necked clams and fat fish of all shapes and sizes.

People hike from all over to Santiago. Some through France and Basque country, others cycle from Portugal. When they arrive in the Cathedral square, many lay on the stone ground and look up at the gorgeous cathedral. They walk in and smell the rosy incense and some take the sacrament from the priest. The reward for their journey.

When I arrived in Santiago, Spain, I was ravenous. I'd been eating the same fish and chips, chicken and chips, roasted goat and chicken and ugali in Africa for a month and I needed to baptize my palate in olive oil, Spanish cheeses and fresh veggies.

Here's one of my favorite tapas dishes, sweet mini peppers stuffed with chevre and drizzled with olive oil.
Galicia is known for its octopus! I'd hesitated buying this because I'd tried it several times in the U.S. and didn't like it, but Chef Miquel's octopus, steamed and served in a platter of Andalucian olive oil and sprinkled with sweet paprika was amazing. This octopus tastes like the pork of the sea, tender and fatty. Though I had octopus in Madrid at another place and it wasn't nearly as good.

I did eat octopus.. here's proof!!

Some of my friends in Spain: Matilde, beside me, lives in Spain but is native to Columbia. She taught me how to make empanadas. Her son German sits beside Juancho Antonio. We're eating a thick hot chocolate sauce with churros.
In Spain, people eat all night and into the morning. They get started eating tapas at 10 p.m. and then dinner at midnight and then move onto another eatery for more tapas where they eat and talk and eat until 3 a.m. or later. In Spain, they live to eat!! Below is another tradional appetizer in Spain, Padron peppers -- sweet, not hot-- pan-fried in olive oil and tossed with sea salt.
We went to the market and bought a round of creamy, farm-fresh goat cheese. Love it! I made a delicious orange cheesecake an brownie dessert with this cheese and Valencian oranges

This creamy, sweet cheese is famous in Galicia and the locals call it "boob" cheese. " :)

Here's my new friend Iain, a divinity student at the university in Santiago who pal-ed around with us and kept us on our toes with his ideas about the nature of God, man's destiny and the art of eating squiggly things like octopus.

Sangria with oranges

This was a relief on the wall of my favorite church called Las Animas near the town center. There characters are almost three-dimensional and reach out to you as you view them. Santiago is rich in religious history.
This is a view of Juan Antonio Senior from upstairs in his apartment after he's hung up his clothes to dry. I love how simple his family lives!

On the way back to the airport, I saw this bag and I loved the message on it.
Goodbye beautiful Santiago; till we meet again!